A comprehensive set of DnaA-box mutations in the replication origin, oriC, of Escherichia coli

Mol Microbiol. 1996 Jul;21(2):301-11. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1996.6481362.x.


We probed the complex between the replication origin, oriC, and the initiator protein DnaA using different types of mutations in the five binding sites for DnaA, DnaA boxes R1-R4 and M: (i) point mutations in individual DnaA boxes and combinations of them; (ii) replacement of the DnaA boxes by a scrambled 9 bp non-box motif; (iii) positional exchange; and (iv) inversion of the DnaA boxes. For each of the five DnaA boxes we found at least one type of mutation that resulted in a phenotype. This demonstrates that all DnaA boxes in oriC have a function in the initiation process. Most mutants with point mutations retained some origin activity, and the in vitro DnaA-binding capacity of these origins correlated well with their replication proficiency. Inversion or scrambling of DnaA boxes R1 or M inactivated oriC-dependent replication of joint replicons or minichromosomes under all conditions, demonstrating the importance of these sites. In contrast, mutants with inverted or scrambled DnaA boxes R2 or R4 could not replicate in wild-type hosts but gave transformants in host strains with deleted or compromised chromosomal oriC at elevated DnaA concentrations. We conclude that these origins require more DnaA per origin for initiation than does wild-type oriC. Mutants in DnaA box R3 behaved essentially like wild-type oriC, except for those in which the low-affinity box R3 was replaced by the high-affinity box R1. Apparently, initiation is possible without DnaA binding to box R3, but high-affinity DnaA binding to DnaA box R3 upsets the regulation. Taken together, these results demonstrate that there are finely tuned DnaA binding requirements for each of the individual DnaA boxes for optimal build-up of the initiation complex and replication initiation in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Mutation*
  • Phenotype
  • Point Mutation
  • Replication Origin*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Codon, Nonsense
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DnaA protein, Bacteria